About Me

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Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada
I am a lawyer in Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada who enjoys reading, especially mysteries. Since 2000 I have been writing personal book reviews. This blog includes my reviews, information on and interviews with authors and descriptions of mystery bookstores I have visited. I strive to review all Saskatchewan mysteries. Other Canadian mysteries are listed under the Rest of Canada. As a lawyer I am always interested in legal mysteries. I have a separate page for legal mysteries. Occasionally my reviews of legal mysteries comment on the legal reality of the mystery. You can follow the progression of my favourite authors with up to 15 reviews. Each year I select my favourites in "Bill's Best of ----". As well as current reviews I am posting reviews from 2000 to 2011. Below my most recent couple of posts are the posts of Saskatchewan mysteries I have reviewed alphabetically by author. If you only want a sentence or two description of the book and my recommendation when deciding whether to read the book look at the bold portion of the review. If you would like to email me the link to my email is on the profile page.

Monday, June 30, 2014

An Inquiry into Love and Death by Simone St. James

26. – 773.) An Inquiry into Love and Death by Simone St. James – I do not think this book was intended for the average male reader. I can sum up my reasoning in a sentence. The slim lovely Jillian Leigh meets the tall, dark and handsome Inspector Drew Merriken and they encounter ghosts and ….

At their first meeting:

I looked down. His hand was on my arm. Something made my breath stop in my throat. I raised my eyes to his.

And just like that, something arced between us. My body flushed hot. His hand on me felt almost familiar, as if he’d touched me before. His gaze darkened as he looked at me, his grip flexed, and for just a second I felt a pull – so brief I thought I’d imagined it – as if he were about to draw me to him. In that second, I would have gone my body understanding before my mind could protest.

In the early 1920’s Jillian is a student at Somerville College for Women at Oxford. She is called to the village of Rothewell on the western coast of England to identify the body of her deceased uncle Toby and deal with his personal effects.

Toby was a renowned ghost hunter and was in Rothewell pursuing Walking John, a 17th Century ghost, who has haunted the woods outside the village for almost three centuries. John Barrow had been a smuggler who died in terrible circumstances. No villager will venture into the woods at night.

Toby was staying in Walking John’s home, Barrow House, a lonely stone building on the edge of the woods at the time of his death.  He died from injuries suffered in a fall from the cliffs overlooking Blood Moon Bay.

Drew comes to Barrow House to make inquiries about Toby. There are suspicions his death was neither an accident nor suicide.

A fighter pilot during WW I Drew was emotionally damaged during the war.

With regard to ghosts Jillian approaches her first night alone at Barrow House with conviction:

           I did not believe in ghosts. Of course I didn’t – no
           sane person believed in ghosts. 

I believed in Oxford, and cobblestoned squares, and old bricks thick with ivy, and rainy days curled up reading books. I believed in my mother’s strong coffee and in the lonely, aching scent of early dawn before anyone else in my boardinghouse was awake. I believed in my favourite men’s cardigan and the way the wind felt on the back of my neck. I believed in life as it lay before me, spinning out slowly, day after day of warm springs and thurderstorms and laughter. These were the things I believed in.

Curious about Toby’s ghost hunting instruments she experiments with them especially the galvanscope which measures “the electric current generated by an object’s magnetic field”.

As a storm rages outside the house she is reading Toby’s journal when a crash causes her to jump. The fire wavers, lamps go out and there is another crash. Finding a shutter loose she goes outside. While attaching the shutter she “turned to see the garden gate fly open as if thrown by an unseen hand”. She is “overcome, in slick certainty, with sheer terror”. The shaken Jillian pulls her bed away from the window. Her certainty there are no ghosts has been shattered.

The intrepid Jillian assists the Inspector in his inquiries. There is a strong element of a young woman heading into danger alone.

I know my review reflects a prejudice with regard to romantic suspense and is condescending in tone. In my next post I am going to reflect on those personal issues.

I expect readers who enjoy romantic suspense mysteries will enjoy the book. The book is well written. Jillian is a striking character.

The cover is wonderfully designed combining photos to evoke the mood of the book(June 28/14)


An Inquiry into Love and Death is my 16th and final read in the 7th Canadian Book Challenge which ends in half an hour. Shortly I will be summarizing my reading for the Challenge.


  1. I enjoyed this review Bill - I liked the way you walked a line between showing why this book was not for you, but not being rude or mean.

    1. Moira: Thanks for the kind words. I am working on my reactions to romantic suspense.

  2. Bill - Thanks for the honest and careful review. Romantic suspense isn't everyone's choice, but I think you've captured effectively what might make the book appealing to readers who enjoy it. And you've described the book effectively.

    1. Margot: Thanks for the comment. As I reflect on the subgenre I realize that of the blogs I visit few have romantic suspense reviews.

  3. You can't help how you feel about a book Bill and I don't think you've been unduly harsh - ghosts and romance aren't on my top ten list of things to look for in a book either so I'll be keeping well clear of this one :)

    1. Bernadette: Thanks for the comment. As always I appreciate your candour and directness. I also do not see you reading about Jillian and Drew and Walking John.

  4. Aauugh! Get out the garlic! I run from romantic suspense and ghosts or any paranormal books, with one or two exceptions. (Until they Wrath Be Past by Asa Larsson is brilliantly written, and Fred Vargas' books, while employing Medieval myths and folklore end up being solved by scientific deductive reasoning and logic.)

    My teenage training by Sherlock Holmes taught me to look for evidence and scientific investigations. And the Great Detective would have shuddered at these romantic passages -- and I am a loyal student of his.

    1. Kathy D.: Thanks for a comment that made me laugh. I may not run but I walk swiftly from romantic suspense, ghosts and the paranormal.

      Sherlock would be proud of you.

  5. My father introduced me to the Great Detective and a few more mystery writers. He loved John Dickson Carr's locked-room mysteries as did my uncle. I think he also loved Nero Wolfe as he introduced them to me. He was a math person and very scientific so he taught us to like crime fiction with use of scientific knowledge and logic.

    We also watched Perry Mason on TV and I read the books. We watched all lawyer-based TV dramas, and it turned out that my sibling and I both like legal mysteries. The fact that I worked in a civil liberties nonprofit office for 10 years just whetted my appetite for the genre. And those books are always based on evidence, investigations and science. Even if there were
    romantic interludes, as I recall in some of Steve Martini's books and perhaps a few others, it was never a distraction from the cases.

    1. Kathy D.: Thanks for the comment. Your education in crime fiction was through some of the best in the genre. They were great writers.

      I have only seen Perry Mason on T.V. Raymond Burr was such a commanding figure. I long for the day in court when a witness confesses on the witness stand and my client walks free. It has not happened in my first 39 years in court.

      I think romance should be part of mysteries. It is part of life.

  6. I would be a curmudgeon if I thought romance should be entirely left out of mysteries. After all, Guido Brunetti and Paola Falier are a long-term, close couple. Their loving banter is a key asset in the Donna Leon books. Brunetti dreams of growing older with his spouse and even when she scolds him at 6 a.m. for waking her -- and threatens to leave with the children -- he lovingly takes it and chuckles.

    Sara Paretsky's V.I. Warshawski has relationships and she speaks to, meets and then misses her partners when they're away. But the romance doesn't preoccupy the books or take away from the cases.

    1. Kathy D.: You have provided a pair of fine examples of romance adding to the plot of mysteries. I wish V.I. could find and hold on to true love.

  7. You are such a romantic!

    I think V.I. is a modern, independent woman who enjoys her partners. When there are problems, they separate and she is alone for awhile, but always open to a new relationship.

    I don't think she strives for eternal romance, although she enjoys it when she has an amicable partner. But she isn't a romantic.

    Guido, on the other hand, is a romantic. He didn't pursue a culprit in one book because he knew that the crime was committed out of romantic love years earlier, and he was willing to overlook it.

    Both are interesting characters, and they have their own drives and choices.

    1. Kathy D.: I do not think anyone has ever called me a romantic before!

      You have captured the reason I doubt V.I. will ever have a long term relationship. When problems come she separates rather than resolve them. She is not ready to commit body and soul to a relationship.